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SteveH

Co-founder Dan Houser is leaving Rockstar

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Please dont lynch me for this, but i quite liked the story in Days Gone, and found the main character "Deak" quite likeable.

 

 

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29 minutes ago, Alex W. said:

The *epilogue* is more purposefully written than the main story which amounts to a strong set-up then the gang spinning their wheels in versions of exactly the same situation for 70 hours until the third act kicks in* and something actually changes.
 

*Think about how RDR2 is the story of...

 

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a terminally ill outlaw deciding what sort of mark he’s going to leave


...and how late in the game that part actually shows up. I think the PSN trophies had less than half the players even getting to that point?

 

Yeah, this is the issue with a whole pile of that AAA story style adventure game, from Uncharted to RDR to Spider-Man to everything else. Actually, the story's main beats and elements are all well done. But the hampering where the writing also needs to cater for the tutorial section (here's a mission where you learn to use grenades, here's a mission introducing optional side quest 7) and stretch things out to the 20-60 hours one of these games need to provide is a structural problem no-one's solved at all.

 

For all GTA5 would be bad characters even if it were shorter or more briskly told, RDR2's main issue is length and pacing. The story of Dutch, Morgan, Marston and co is actually pretty good, and well told. But the story-on-loop section as you move from chapter to chapter to give you length is a problem. Similar with all of them.

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Dialogue in games has the burden of needing to get to the point. In film and TV you can literally have people talking for an hour, fill it with subtlety and make it gripping. In a game, unless play is built around dialogue options (which then takes a lot of writing), there's much less space for that and players might be too distracted by what they want to do next to pay attention anyway. So games have to tell stories and communicate emotions in different ways, preferably ones that work in sync with the player's actions. And as part of that, dialogue might actually be more effective if it's kept brief and functional.

 

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You’d think so but ordinary film and TV dialogue is already far far far better at getting to the point than most game dialogue. Game designers seem to take advantage of the lack of a fixed run time to have characters prattle on endlessly where even a *novel* writer would probably bash out the key character points and information within a couple of pages. There’s a perverse need to have “the most” story as a form of good writing instead of doing what every movie does and getting back to the action/drama/jokes ASAP.
 

Going back to RDR2 its dialogue was actually really good and “cinematic” in the way it told you what you needed to know in a way that conveyed character within a few lines, versus the audio logs/Hideo Kojima endless monologues approach.

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Man, I'd hate to be as negative and downbeat as you guys when it come to narrative heavy games. I'm so pleased I can throughly enjoy them for what they are and the progression that has been made. And I'm pleased we have crazy, over the top, thumbs up with hearts,  Kojima diagloue .

 

The thing that makes me smile most is that some people here will say how bad it all is and then sing the praises of Fast and Furious in the fim thread

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4 minutes ago, PeteBrant said:

Man, I'd hate to be as negative and downbeat as you guys when it come to narrative heavy games. I'm so pleased I can throughly enjoy them for what they are and the progression that has been made. And I'm pleased we have crazy, over the top, thumbs up with hearts,  Kojima diagloue .

 

The thing that makes me smile most is that some people here will say how bad it all is and then sing the praises of Fast and Furious in the fim thread


Cool thanks

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15 minutes ago, Alex W. said:


Cool thanks

By the way, you're absolutely right, that post of mine was probably entirely unnecessary.

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4 minutes ago, PeteBrant said:

By the way, you're absolutely right, that post of mine was probably entirely unnecessary.


No it’s fine really, I just couldn’t figure out a way to respond to it. :lol:  It’s not a bad point and I’ll stop devouring Hideo Kojima’s particular brand of bad dialogue when I’m dead.

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26 minutes ago, Alex W. said:


No it’s fine really, I just couldn’t figure out a way to respond to it. :lol:  It’s not a bad point and I’ll stop devouring Hideo Kojima’s particular brand of bad dialogue when I’m dead.

I went from death stranding to fallen order . And what struck me most was that fallen order was trying to be a film in its delivery and DS was 100% a video game in its delivery (ha!) albeit heavily influenced by film as Kojima is . I just found FO to be so stiff and serious compared to the bonkers world of DS . I’m not sure I’m making my point well , but I think video games that embrace the fact they aren’t films and try to do something that mean they only could work in that medium with their scenarios and delivery work better than games that are out and out trying to ape cinema . 
There are exceptions to that of course , but I think there is a lot to be said of the emotional connection you have with characters because you interact with them rather than being a passive observer .
 

i think I’m just rambling now . 

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I want to make it clear that I’ve not had the money to play DS yet but I love Kojima, but I don’t really know how to judge his writing. It certainly doesn’t apply to any conventions of storytelling from other media (despite the obvious movie influences, his writing and dialogue never actually sounds like a movie), and I’ve very much enjoyed it when playing his games. But I also have never really encountered stories like his, and I think for me I’m much more willing to forgive bad writing when it’s about something I’ve never heard before. I’m not really including him when I think about game stories, because what he does really doesn’t fit very well with the conventions of games or movies or writing or anything. And that might be because he’s worked out a seamless way to convey feelings through gameplay and take from movies and novels and radio to help provide a familiar backdrop to the feel of gameplay, which is always central. But maybe he’s just incredibly talented at game design and kinda crazy.

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I downloaded GTA V for another playthrough becuase it was on GamePass and I remembered that the characters and writing are just plain bad.  It's OK doing a Sopranos / mob / gangster knockoff but the problem is that it feels like the third movie in a trilogy, when all the ideas have been used up.  Every character you meet is thoroughly dislikeable.  This extends to even characters you don't meet or never see.  One of the early towtruck missions has you following orders from a woman smacked out of her face who your character shagged at 13, on behalf of a guy who is so stoned out of his brain that he is about to lose hs business and when the woman phones him, she yells at him because he is sleeping with a crackhead.  An early mission has a paparazzi sneaking photos of a teen star taking it up the arse while texting on her phone because this will ruin her career despite the fact that she's mid-20s and therefore she's not a virgin anyway. None of it makes sense, none of it is necessary, none of it is interesting... it's barely above Jackass level of writing.

 

And that is before we get to that torture mission which was epically misjudged.

 

Ironically, this had made me restart RDR2 which I gave up on very early (just out of the snow intro - I think).  Mainly because RDR was a love letter to the Western.  It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't so downright cynical about its subject matter and contemptuous of its target audience.  GTA III, VC and SA were great because of the love clearly poured into them and the excitement at realising the ideas.  For all its technical brilliance, GTA V is a hollow piece of work.

 

I genuinely have no idea where they can take GTA 6. I suspect this is why Houser and Benzies left... their ideas have been done as well as they are ever going to be. There is nothing left that they can say. 

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3 hours ago, PeteBrant said:

Man, I'd hate to be as negative and downbeat as you guys when it come to narrative heavy games. I'm so pleased I can throughly enjoy them for what they are and the progression that has been made. And I'm pleased we have crazy, over the top, thumbs up with hearts,  Kojima diagloue .

 

The thing that makes me smile most is that some people here will say how bad it all is and then sing the praises of Fast and Furious in the fim thread

Yep, there are some serious cases of double-standards. It's plain snobbery, if you ask me. 

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The issue with me with the rockstar games is the ludonarrative dissonance, it doesn't matter how you play them because the characters have been written in a particular way. This is also a cross post in a way with the morality meters thread.

If I'm playing through a game where the characters are completely fixed, then it clashes more if you're then given options to do things in a good or a bad way, I often play games "nice" first time round but you can't just leave the group in rdr2 and set up your own farm, or just sell fish or whatever.

 

I think one big next step for any of these games need a bit more of the MMO type idea of being able to do what you want in the world to a much larger degree. The story should almost be going on all by itself but you can join in or not for certain things. 

I realise this is pretty much a completely unreasonable pie in the sky idea which would involve so much potential for players missing out on things etc but I think it will be so much more immersive. It almost needs to be more like a deus ex type game that's generally a lot smaller but deeper. If you could just leave the camp to do what you want but it still had a passage of time and the rest of the camp moving around places it would be a lot richer imo. You could see them doing the bank job, or here about it because I dunno, the shop bloke might come to you to buy furs etc because you decided you wanted to be a trapper and a bounty hunter or some such. 

You could play behind the scenes to help Dutch's gang maybe, or come along for particular missions but you'd get a smaller cut if you weren't a regular member.

I know this is probably further off than a mainstream vr or whatever but I really do think it's what is needed to have more believable immersion and not having that juxtaposition of leaving your story driven hq mission givers and spending donkeys of in game time hunting down bears because you want a nice hat, or winning millions in poker but then it not having any worthwhile effect on the state of your camp or whether the game tells you to hold up a stagecoach because it would be a cool mission and that happens in westerns, even if you already had more money than the game gives you for mission completion. 

 

Maybe one day my dream game will exist of animal crossing X gta.

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I've not watched any Fast and Furious films, but surely the appeal there lies in the action rather than the dialogue? Or if it's the dialogue it's the silly, throwaway nature of it?

 

And isn't that waht GTA has increasingly forgotten, as it's made a bigger deal of the dialogue in each new release, putting it at the front and centre of the experience like it actually thinks it's good?

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And GTA5's gameplay is still excellent, although playing it again it's really clear it's aged in many respects and feels a bit like the 7 years old it actually is.

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Going back to where I left the thread a while ago there's good parody and theres shit parody. GTA frequently falls on the side of obvious, trite, unfunny, shit parody.

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6 hours ago, BadgerFarmer said:

Dialogue in games has the burden of needing to get to the point.

 

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15 hours ago, BadgerFarmer said:

And isn't that waht GTA has increasingly forgotten, as it's made a bigger deal of the dialogue in each new release, putting it at the front and centre of the experience like it actually thinks it's good?


It’s the bit the Housers were praised for in the PS2 era games so makes sense why they’d push it front and centre.

 

It would be much more impressive if you were a blank slate given missions and how you did those missions impacted how your character developed in the game world - newspapers, gang attention, police attention, media attention. Would be very hard to pull off - Witcher 3 does a good job of that in small ways - Morrowind did this sort of thing with the guilds reacting to choices you made in the gameworld. I guess in the world of GTA that might translate into an undercover cop story, with some of the same missions from different perspectives depending on playstyle or choices: undercover cop, gang member or fugitive.

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The issue you run into there though is their fiduciary duty to their shareholders. If you want to do anything massively different, you have to justify those changes to your formula. It’s not just shareholders either, hundreds of people are relying on them for their jobs. At a certain stage, between being legally obliged to try to ensure the value of shareholders investments, and having people relying on you for work, there comes a point where substantially changing GTA isn’t something you’re ever really going to be able to justify while the current version is making so much money. Why take the risk? Everyone will buy another GTA game the same as the previous ones, so why risk your job and other people’s jobs and other people’s money?

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Because talking about fiduciary responsibility on a games forum is a bit dull?

 

You could argue that that's also why they don't bother making the writing any better. Either way, it's not very interesting to imagine. 

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I dunno, I think it’s interesting that a company run by spoilt private school kids would be “edgy” and interesting for about as much time as it took to get rich and then relax into churning money to make those people even richer, assumedly so they can send their kids to private school and then pay their way into whatever is cool in ten years time. 
 

Maybe GTA was always just a cynical machine designed to extract money from people using superficial “cool” stuff with no real ideas behind it. Or maybe all the good stuff about it was put in by the British weirdos those rich guys stole the game from? And they’ve just slowly been replacing it with their shite ideas. 

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I think your post has a fair bit I'd agree with, and some I wouldn't. You're definitely right that GTAs IV and V wanted people to take the stories and writing seriously for probably the first time. GTA 3 didn't really have a story, Vice City was mostly a collection of 80s movies parodies from memory, San Andreas threw any pretension at serious thought out the window long before you could be wearing a jetpack and gimp suit, racing down the streets holding a massive pink dildo as a weapon. Whereas IV and V wanted to take advantage of the better tech etc to tell stories that clearly someone thought were decent. And they're dogshit.

 

All the old GTA parodies are still there (and, as you say, increasingly out of date.) But the story and characters are what's stepped up, and (for me, at least) mostly miss the mark. Franklin is boring, Michael is boring, Trevor is insane (and the closest there is to how the player plays the game.) Nico was boring.

 

But then, Rockstar are much more successful in the other pillar of their output. RDR 1 & 2 get much closer to a satisfying mix of homage, parody, story and characters you want to spend time with. In fact, I'd say they're almost entirely successful on that front. So I don't think it's easily framed as Rockstar not knowing what they're about. It's GTA they don't know what to do things with.

 

A more critical person than me could probably draw some interesting comparisons between Michael and Arthur, and Franklin and Marston in the recent games. (Edit: also Trevor/Micha.) It's just one's undoubtedly a lot better done.

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3 hours ago, b00dles said:

Because talking about fiduciary responsibility on a games forum is a bit dull?

 

You could argue that that's also why they don't bother making the writing any better. Either way, it's not very interesting to imagine. 


I don’t know about that, as with movies a lot of unusual “creative” decisions made by large game developers and publishers start to make sense when you view them as high yield investments rather than art. It’s an interesting lens to use and speaks to whether the remaining Houser will get to do another big budget narrative game or if GTA6 will just be the latest release of GTA Online.

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I once applied to Rockstar North at the start of my career. I kept hearing suggestions about how you should 'express your passion for videogames', so I had this idea where I grabbed a PS2 pad and just smashed it to pieces. I sent a CD and CV/Resume in a box and placed a broken PS2 pad on top with a piece of paper saying 'I am passionate about videogames'. Nothing came of it and I wince at the thought of it, so so embarrassing.

 

Anyway over the 15-ish years of being in the industry I've come across quite a few ex-RockstarNorth staff and all of them spoke of various horror stories, so perhaps my weird broken PS2 pad idea saved me from a bad experience. 

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Here’s what time magazine said about the Housers in 2009:

 

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I wonder what might have caused people to have high expectations of their writing? 

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